- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Random House; First Printing edition (March 1 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 140006872X
- ISBN-13: 978-1400068722
- Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 2.5 x 24.3 cm
- Shipping Weight: 658 g
- Average Customer Review: 11 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #161,406 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef Hardcover – Mar 1 2011
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Amazon Best Books of the Month, March 2011: Gabrielle Hamilton's memoir, Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef, is just what a chef's story should be--delectable, dripping with flavor, tinged with adrenaline and years of too-little sleep. What sets Hamilton apart, though, is her ability to write with as much grace as vitriol, a distinct tenderness marbling her meaty story. Hamilton spent her idyllic childhood on a wild farm in rural Pennsylvania with an exhilarant father--an artist and set builder--and French mother, both "incredibly special and outrageously handsome." As she entered her teens, however, her family unexpectedly dissolved. She moved to New York City at 16, living off loose change and eating ketchup packets from McDonald’s; worked 20-hour days at a soulless catering company; traveled, often half-starved, through Europe; and cooked cooked for allergy-riddled children at a summer camp. The constant thread running through this patchwork tale, which culminates with the opening of her New York City restaurant, Prune, is Hamilton's slow simmering passion for cooking and the comfort it can bring. "To be picked up and fed, often by strangers, when you are in that state of fear and hunger, became the single most important food experience I came back to over and over," Hamilton writes, and it's this poignant understanding of the link between food and kindness that makes Blood, Bones & Butter so satisfying to read. --Lynette Mong
“Magnificent. Simply the best memoir by a chef ever. Ever. Gabrielle Hamilton packs more heart, soul, and pure power into one beautifully crafted page than I’ve accomplished in my entire writing career. Blood, Bones & Butter is the work of an uncompromising chef and a prodigiously talented writer. I am choked with envy.”—Anthony Bourdain
“Gabrielle Hamilton has changed the potential and raised the bar for all books about eating and cooking. Her nearly rabid love for all real food experience and her completely vulnerable, unprotected yet pure point of view unveils itself in both truth and inspiration. I will read this book to my children and then burn all the books I have written for pretending to be anything even close to this. After that I will apply for the dishwasher job at Prune to learn from my new queen.”—Mario Batali
“I have long considered Gabrielle Hamilton a writer in cook’s clothing, and this deliciously complex and intriguing memoir proves the point. Her candor, courage, and craft make for a wonderful read but, even more, for an appreciation of her talent and dedication, which have resulted from her often trying but inspiring experiences. Her writing is every bit as delectable and satisfying as her food.”—Mimi Sheraton, food critic and author of The German Cookbook and Eating My Words
"[A] lusty, rollicking, engaging-from-page-one memoir of the chef-owner of Prune restaurant in New York’s East Village. Hamilton opened her eating establishment without any prior experience in cheffing, but the life experiences she did have before that bold move, told here in honest detail, obviously made up for any deficiencies in heading up a restaurant and also provide material for an electric story that is interesting even if the author hadn’t become the chef-owner of a successful restaurant. An idyllic childhood turned sour when her parents divorced; her adolescence and young womanhood encompassed drugs, menial jobs, and lack of direction and initiative when it came to continued education. All’s well that ends well, however, and her story does indeed do that. Add this to the shelf of chef memoirs but also recommend it to readers with a penchant for forthright, well-written memoirs in general." – Booklist
Top Customer Reviews
Hamilton's story was so interesting to me. She endured so many different experiences throughout her life and this was her interpretation of her life's events. It was engaging and captured my attention the entire time I read her story and actually enjoyed the fact that while food is a big part of her life, the book wasn't just about the food and the restaurant but had more "ingredients" such as her relationship and experiences and feelings about her family, Italy, etc.
The front cover of Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef, contains a rather fulsome blurb from celebrity food writer and chef, Anthony Bourdain. I can't say that I share Mr. Bourdain's enthusiasm in its entirety, but this is indeed a great food memoir.
One of the things that makes it great is that it's messy. I'm not referring to Hamilton's personal history so much, although that is fairly convoluted, but more the way the book is organized. It jumps back and forth in time and place, but in a way that feels quite natural.
Anyone telling their story will of course self edit. However, as we tell our stories we often realize that we have left out a part we need to include because an earlier event helps to clarify the later event we are describing. Such a writing styles lends a level of authenticity to Ms. Hamilton's writing.
Blood, Bones & Butter, begins with Hamilton telling the story of the annual lamb roast that was the centerpiece of her growing-up years as the child of artist parents. It was an idyllic experience, which when ended sets her on a search to recover that idyll.
The rest of the book deals with her search. It's a search that takes her from being an underage server, through to a criminal record, to student, cook, and restaurant owners, Along the way there are many romances, mostly with women, and what I would describe as a rather odd sort of marriage, to a man.
Through the search, it is food that continually serves as the continuing link. It is in food that Ms. Hamilton hopes to find her way back to the idyllic life she knew as a small child. As she experiences working with food in many different settings she finds bits of the family life she was seeking. When I say I'm not suggesting that these are insignificant, but they are less whole than what Ms. Hamilton is looking for. Yet, it is in experiencing the fragments that she is able to define for herself what that whole should be like.
Along the way Hamilton comes to appreciate food that is meant to meet the hunger one feels. While she is capable of pulling off the fanciest of meals, she realizes that hunger, physical, emotional, spiritual is at the base of all our food desires. Her overwhelming desire becomes to produce food that feeds all these hungers.
In opening here restaurant, Prune, Hamilton takes another step along the journey to get back to that sense of family. Designed to be small, and intimate, the restaurant becomes an extended family for her. One that is built around the sharing of food in small places.
As the title Blood, Bones & Butter suggests, there is a certain messiness to Ms. Hamilton's life. However, just as in the kitchen, so in life, it is in working through the mess that we come to meal.
Ultimately, it is the marriage she enters into that leads her back towards those early days. Her husband is Italian and as their marriage traverses its bumpy road, that road passes through and makes frequent stops at his family home in Italy. Here Ms. Hamilton reconnects food and family in a way that is fuller than that which she encounters in her journey through the world of food and cookery.
Blood, Bones & Butter would be a great gift for any food lover in your life. Or, buy it for yourself and enjoy it as you sit down to a meal.
So begins Gabrielle Hamilton's idyllic childhood in rural Pennsylvania, one centered around agriculture, artistry and an annual spring lamb roast for 200 people. Such sublimity is shattered, however, when Hamilton's parents divorce and split the family in two. The break-up impels her to seek independence, landing a kitchen job at age 13 and embarking on a lifetime of culinary adventure.
Blood, Bones & Butter waxes rhapsodic about food but reaches a much larger audience than just the foodie crowd. Hamilton has an M.F.A. in fiction writing and employs her scholarly, effortless style to evocatively describe surviving poverty in Manhattan, reconnecting with her estranged mother and visiting the south of Italy.
At the heart of her memoir is Hamilton's decision to open her own restaurant (the famous Prune in NYC) in 1999. Despite some disorienting gaps, chronological disorderliness and perhaps too much detail about her dysfunctional marriage, Hamilton provides an engrossing, tactile and aromatic chronicle of her experiences cooking and eating around the world.